FC Cincinnati’s incredible 2022 campaign finally came to an end on Thursday but for Pat Noonan, this is just the beginning.
After three successive Wooden Spoons, the Orange and Blue finally qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference and even coming from behind to beat the New York Red Bulls 2-1 away in Round One.
Confidence was high as Noonan took his side to the familiar surroundings of Subaru Park to face the Philadelphia Union but, in the end, the top seed in the East proved too strong thanks to a second-half goal from Leon Flach.
While many will now praise Cincinnati for simply making it this far, the aim for this team – spearheaded by a star-studded attack of Luciano Acosta, Brenner, and Brandon Vazquez – was far loftier.
“It’s tough because the season’s over, you know, so regardless of who we were playing, or who you’re playing, when the season’s over, it’s tough,” said Noonan, adding: “Our goal wasn’t to get to this point. Our goal was to hold the trophy. Whether other people on the outside felt that way or not, once we got into the Playoffs, that was our goal and that didn’t happen so we’re disappointed.”
Despite the sinking feeling, Cincinnati still have plenty to be proud of in terms of growth and excitement, especially considering the embarrassment the club suffered during their first three years in MLS.
“We were a Playoff team, we won a Playoff game on the road. We just saw a lot of growth from pre-season until now,” Noonan observed. “I think you see a strong character, of that team in that locker room who’s disappointed because they expected more.
“There were a lot of good things that those guys did to get us to this point, it was a lot of work that the players, the staff, the support staff, and everybody put in to get us to this point. So I’m very pleased with us being in this situation. Now, it’s still a tough feeling. But the guys deserve a lot of credit for the year that they had coming off of struggle.”
If FC Cincinnati can keep their current stars together and enjoy another strong winter of recruitment, they might just be able to achieve Noonan’s goal and go all the way in 2023.
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